Each Monday, BND staff writer Brittney M. Helmrich will answer your questions about careers, leadership, office life and social media in her advice column, "Dear Brittney." Got a professional problem you just can't figure out? Send your conundrums to firstname.lastname@example.org the subject line "Dear Brittney" to have your questions featured.
I have been in the same job for nearly a decade. While I do like my job, I'm feeling stagnated and lacking opportunities for advancement. How do I approach my boss about this?
- Ready to Grow
Dear Ready to Grow,
I'll be honest: I'm a little surprised that it's been almost a decade and you haven't advanced at all in your job. You say you like your job, and that's great. But I'm wondering — in all these years, have you asked for a promotion, or have you just been hoping it would happen?
It may feel like you have to just prove yourself and wait for your boss to take notice and offer you a new opportunity, but it doesn't always work that way. The reality is, while your boss likely appreciates you and all the work you've put in over the years, he or she may not realize you even want to make a change. Getting the opportunities you want could simply be a matter of asking for a promotion or more responsibilities. If you don't ask for it, you'll never know.
Of course, asking for a promotion isn't easy and can be incredibly nerve-wracking, and that's why you need to be prepared. Reflect on the accomplishments you've achieved in your time there, and think about the kinds of responsibilities you'd like to take on. Once you know what you want, schedule a time to talk to your boss. Explain that you're feeling stagnated and that you'd like to be considered for a promotion or additional responsibilities, and show how the things you've already been doing and have accomplished — along with your continued dedication — will help you be more successful in a higher position. Talk about how it will benefit the company if you are given the opportunity to take on more responsibilities. If you ask for it and can back up your request with facts and examples that prove you deserve it, the odds should be in your favor. [See Related Story: Dear Brittney: I'm Overworked and Need a Raise]
But even if you love the company you work for, if you're feeling restless and there isn't a position there for you to grow into, you should start looking elsewhere for opportunities. You might like your job now, but if you're itching for advancement and your current position feels more like a dead end, you'll probably grow to hate it if you just stay where you are. Therefore, it's in your best interest to see what else is out there.
You're obviously a loyal employee, having stayed in your same position for nearly 10 years. But that doesn't mean you should limit yourself. Think about the kind of job you'd want if you left your current company — whether that's simply a step up from where you are, or a major change in responsibilities — and check job postings from other companies. You might find the perfect job for you with another employer. At the very least, you'll have some backup options just in case the promotion doesn't come through.
And if you don't get that promotion, don't sweat it. It may feel personal, and you probably do deserve one after all these years of hard work, but it could just be a matter of the job you want not being available. If this seems to be the case and you really don't want to leave, ask your boss when it might be a good time to check in again about advancing. If your boss can give you a time frame, that's a good sign. If that's the case, use that time wisely — work harder and smarter, and keep track of your accomplishments. When the time comes, present all the facts and figures, and hopefully, that promotion will be yours. If not, you'll know for sure that it's time to move on.
If it really does seem personal, however — for example, if you know the job is available and you're still not being considered, or if you've been promised a promotion in the past and your supervisor has never followed through on it — take it as a signal that it's definitely time to move on and look for another job. It's one thing if the position just isn't there at the time; it's another if your employer is actively stifling you from advancing in your career.
Talk to your boss, look for other jobs and weigh your options. In the end, you have to either move up or move on.